Let me be totally honest, I hate shopping at Wal-Mart. The experience is always unpleasant, the employees seem unhappy, and I leave the store with items lacking in quality. Unfortunately, I have no choice. I am among those on a fixed income and align myself with low-income families. I cannot afford to pay outlandish prices for certain necessities charged by the ‘better’ stores. The result is Wal-Mart: A love-hate relationship.
On July 31, 2014, which was the end of Wal-Mart’s fiscal year, they reported a profit of $128.08 billion. Its closest U.S. competitor is Amazon, which reported $6 billion in profits. How do they do it? It is a simple formula– offer one-stop shopping where you have every item available customers need in a single store; buy in huge volumes, receiving enormous discounts; pay employees little better than minimum wage; and build numerous stores even in smaller communities.
In the Reno/Sparks area, where I live, we have approximately 320,000 people. There are five Wal-Mart Superstores. Friday, we saw the emergence of a challenger. China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., went public. The initial price was $68 per share, but quickly rose to $92.70. It closed at $93.89, raising the company’s value to $231 billion, making them larger than Proctor and Gamble. Like Wal-Mart, they sell nearly everything online at discounted prices. Alibaba’s consumer-to-consumer portal is called Taobao, and functions similar to eBay. It features nearly a billion products and is one of the top 20 websites.
The CEO, Jack Ma, founded the website in 1999. Originally, a business to business portal, it has expanded into diverse product lines available all over the world. Could this Chinese giant challenge the all-powerful Wal-Mart? Definitely. Wal-Mart is not a leader in online sales. I doubt they ever will be. I have attempted to purchase items from my home, and Wal-Mart’s customer service is less than adequate. I haven’t attempted to test Alibaba as of the writing of this article, but I plan to. Competition is good for the consumer. If you shop at Walmart, you are likely aware that their prices are rising more quickly than other stores. Why is that? Because they have virtually no competition and can ‘do whatever it wants.’ Here are a couple of complaints from Wal-Mart customers:
Heather of Tioga, PA on Nov. 26, 2005 commented on the Wal-Mart store in her area. When it first opened, the store was nirvana. Eventually, however, other businesses in the area started to fail and closed. Now, all the other competitors are gone and there is nowhere left to shop as Wal-Mart has regressed in a big way as well. The selection is mediocre at best, the quality of items is second-rate (clothing, etc.), and customer service is an oxymoron. Trying to get assistance or check out takes longer than it does to shop and no one wants to be bothered with customer needs.
Thomas of Petawawa, ON on Sept. 10, 2014 commented on his experience with unruly delivery truck drivers who accosted him outside of a Wal-Mart location. He subsequently moved his vehicle for the driver and reported the incident to the store manager after he became fearful for his safety and well-being, as well as that of his vehicle.
There were 1,523 complaints on this one site. Monopolies are illegal and immoral. Although Wal-Mart is not technically a monopoly, it certainly acts like one. I’m sure many others think of Wal-Mart as a love-hate relationship.
Blog By James Turnage